Tuesday, August 14, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Pak firing enhances villagers’ fear
M. L. Kak
Tribune News Service

Akhnoor, August 13
Fear has gripped residents of 150 villages close to the international border (IB) in this sector and in Samba and R.S. Pora areas following step up in Pakistan firing.

“Till a week ago we used to spend nights in the open because of electricity crisis but the Pakistan firing has forced us to sweat inside our rooms,” Darshan Singh of Hamirpur village, said.

A senior BSF officer said, “Pakistan Rangers have been firing around 8,000 and 10,000 rounds on the BSF posts and pickets each day during the past one week.”

“We retaliate only to silence the enemy guns,” he said, adding that “our men have instructions not to fire on Pakistan villagers.”

Rajesh Kumar, one of the 20,000 persons who have fled Pallanwala and other adjoining villages over the past two years following heavy firing carried out by the Pakistan troops, said, “Whenever we plan to go back firing along the border starts and we are forced to suffer at camps.”

It is the result of intermittent, but heavy firing, that Pallanwala, Panjtoot and other villages continue to wear a deserted look. At Pallanwala rows of shops and well-built houses have remained locked for the past over two years. Agricultural activities over more than 3,000 acres have remained suspended for the past 26 months.

A BSF officer said the Pakistan Rangers have resorted to firing from small arms across Samba, R.S. Pora and Akhnoor. In Samba and R.S. Pora areas the harvesting of rabi crops had been completed but the latest round of firing on the border has slowed kharif cultivation.

R.S. Pora is regarded as the main rice producing area in Jammu and it is in this area the export quality of superior basmati is sown. However, during the past six years the production has declined because several villages close to the international border are unsafe for farming.

When asked whether the situation was alarming a BSF officer said, “There is no reason for getting alarmed. We treat it as routine.” He explained that for the past several years the Pakistan Rangers have been using small arms for hitting our bunkers and observation posts. We too retaliate in the same fashion, but with restraint. We do not waste as much gun powder and bullets as the other side does.”

He said, “We are fully prepared to meet any challenge from the other side.” He lamented that even the commitment the field commanders of Pakistan make at the flag meeting or at the routine meetings, were not being fulfilled by the other side.

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